Africa Speaking As One

Africa’s increasing ability to speak with one voice on global issues is one of the recognized hallmarks of its growing transformation and strengths as a global player. Africa is on an upward trend and seeks mutually beneficial relations with other regions and continents.

In this respect, the African Union (AU) looks at the nature of Africa’s partnerships with a view to rationalizing them and enhancing the benefits for its transformation and integration efforts, notably by:

  • Strengthening its common perspectives on partnerships, and
  • Speaking with one voice on global matters.

Common Positions

Launch of the Common African Position (CAP) on the Post-2015 Development Agenda at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 3 June, 2014. Photo credit: African Union

The Continent’s quest to promote and defend common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples was clearly stated as one of the objectives of the African Union in Article 3 of its Constitutive Act Union PDF, adopted in 2002.

This is further reinforced in Agenda 2063 which underscores the need to enhance Africa’s united voice and collective action in global negotiations, through:

  • Pooled sovereignty,
  • Integration, and
  • The development of common African positions.

In the Agenda 2063, the Continent pledges to continue to speak with one voice and to act collectively to promote its common interests and positions in the international arena.

"We undertake to continue the global struggle against all forms of racism and discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances; advance international cooperation that promotes and defends Africa’s interests, is mutually beneficial and aligned to our Pan Africanist vision; continue to speak with one voice and act collectively to promote our common interests and positions in the international arena."

-- Agenda 2063

By adopting common positions, Africa reaffirms its leading place as part of the global drive through the United Nations and other multilateral organisations to find multilateral approaches to humanity’s most pressing concerns including:

  • Human security and peace,
  • The eradication of poverty,
  • Hunger, as well as
  • Disease.

Approaches

There is no standard approach to the Continent’s efforts to speak with one voice and it often develops tailored mechanism on a case by case basis.

Africa speaks either unilaterally as a continent usually following a mandate from the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union External link which is empowered to do so by the Constitutive Act of the Union. Related decisions of the Assembly are implemented by the Executive Council External link and its Ministerial Committees, with the support of mechanisms established to this end.

This is, for instance the case of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) External link formed at the time of the Rio Summit in 1992. The AGN consists of a small delegation mandated to represent the Continent at major international meetings and negotiations.

The Continent’s efforts at speaking with one voice draws on a range of approaches, mechanism and/or strategies led by its:

  • Institutions,
  • Countries, and
  • Individual leaders as well as champions.  

For instance, the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration containing the common African position on reform of the UN Security Council is driven by a Committee of Ten on UN Reform established in 2005 by the African Union Summit and chaired by Sierra Leone at the decision of the Summit.

On the other hand, the ‘African Consensus and Position on Development Effectiveness’ was largely developed through the African Platform for Development Effectiveness (APDev), which was officially launched in 2011 as a continent-wide coordination mechanism, coordinated by:

The processes of formulating common positions are inclusive and often involve consultations with civil society and other stakeholders.

Africa also works to promote a common voice through multilateral frameworks such as the Group of 77 and China (G77) External link, and groups as well as alliances such as the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) External link and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) External link, which tend to advocate shared positions with the Continent on given issues or questions.

OSAA’s Role

The Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) fully endorses the importance of having common African positions on key global issues and in this respect provides support to the African Group in New York and to African regional organizations in processes aimed at developing such positions.

For instance, in the preparation for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012, OSAA worked closely with the:

The Office ensured coherent support for the preparation of an African common position for the Conference as well as for the participation of African countries.

Through the UN Interdepartmental Task Force on African Affairs (IDTFA), OSAA worked to ensure coherent and coordinated preparation of the 2008 High-level Meeting on Africa’s Development Needs and several expert group meetings on a variety of topics straddling the nexus between development, peace and security.

Logo of the Common African Position of the Post-2015 Development Agenda

A similar approach is also being pursued with regard to ongoing deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals. The Office worked with the UNECA to support the work of a high-level committee of African Heads of State and Government to prepare and reach an early agreement on the Common African Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. OSAA also provided vital support to the efforts of the African Group in New York during the deliberations of the working groups on:

  • The sustainable development goals,
  • Means of implementation, and
  • Transfer of technology,

Furthermore the Office organizes annual events at the UN Headquarters in New York to raise awareness on and communicate the Continent’s views and efforts to the international community, in close collaboration with the:

Examples of African Common Positions

African Governments have adopted a number of common positions on issues of global concern, including the following (all links below point to PDF PDF documents):